How to Apply Perfume

  • By: Nathan Cherry
  • Time to read: 12 min.

One of the most common questions from newcomers to the perfume world is: “How do I apply fragrance?”

How many sprays? Should I spray on my wrist, on my neck, or both? Should I spray on my clothes? Should I rub my wrists? Should I spray my hair? 

It can all seem overwhelming at first, but worry not. For one, I’m here to answer your burning questions. 

And secondly: the truth is, there isn’t really any right or wrong way to apply fragrance. 

Of course, some methods are better than others, and you probably shouldn’t douse yourself with 30 sprays of Dior Sauvage before hopping on a crowded metro. For the most part, though, there is no definitive routine for applying fragrance. 

Although there is no standard method for applying perfume, 4-5 sprays on your pulse points is a good start. Spraying perfume in your hair or on your clothes will give you greater performance. 

When it comes to applying fragrance, though, everyone has an opinion. 

Let’s take a closer look. 

How Many Sprays? 

The question of how many sprays of perfume to apply is hotly debated. Some say that more than one spray is overdoing it, while others encourage you to spray to your heart’s content. Some even say you shouldn’t even apply perfume on yourself at all, but rather spray it into the air and walk through the scent cloud. 

There is no definitive answer to the question of how many sprays of perfume you should apply. Almost more than anything else, our sense of smell varies from person to person. Some people love perfume, while other people hate it, just like some people might like or dislike the smell of gas or paint or sweat. It’s entirely subjective. 

Therefore, to really know how many sprays of perfume works for you, you’re going to have to experiment with different methods. 

Low-ball things first, then gradually increase the number of sprays to gauge how much you can handle. 

Also take into account the environment you’ll be heading into, as well as the strength of the perfume. 

Wearing 10 sprays of an incredibly powerful smoky incense fragrance to the office might not be the best move if you want to keep your job, and definitely skip the crazy big guns on that hot first date you’ve got lined up. 

Understanding what works best for what situation takes time, trial, and error. That’s why I’d advise that, if you’re just starting out, keep things reigned in for a while. Wear something that isn’t likely to offend (like Chanel’s Bleu de Chanel, for instance) with a gentle hand – say 2-3 sprays. If that doesn’t work out, try 4-5, or 5-6, or even more if that suits you. 

However, you should be aware that more doesn’t always mean better. Too many sprays can quickly become overwhelming for both yourself and those around you. You could also get anosmic to certain scents if you spray too heavily – meaning that you won’t be able to smell it, but everyone else will. 

People can often get stuck in an anosmic rut if they wear a certain perfume too often or too heavily, always amping up the sprays or complaining about poor performance, when in reality they’re filling up the room. 


So test, test, test until you find your sweet spot. However, I find that 4-5 sprays of an average strength perfume is more than enough for me for all day performance, and is a good starting point for testing out perfumes. 

Again, though, you’ll have to find out how much you can handle yourself. 

Where to Spray? 

Another hot topic is the question of where on your body you should spray. Should I spray on my wrists? Should I spray on my clothes? Should I spray my hair? 

There’s a whole host of different ideas about where exactly the best place for applying your perfume is, none of which are necessarily right or wrong. 

Let’s take a look at some of them. 

Pulse Points

Probably the areas most commonly recommended for perfume application are your body’s pulse points. 

Simply put, a pulse point is a point on your body through which you can feel your pulse because of the proximity of blood vessels to the skin. 

If you put your hand on your thigh, you won’t be able to feel your pulse. However, if you put your hand on your wrist or on your neck, where you’ll find major arteries, you will definitely be able to feel it. 

Why, then, should you apply perfume to pulse points? 

Because the blood vessels, pulsing with your body’s warm blood, are so close to the surface of the skin at your wrists and neck, they heat up that particular area of skin significantly in comparison to other regions of your body. 

What, you might be wondering, does that have to do with perfume? The answer is quite simple. 

Perfume blooms when heat is applied to it. 

Think about it this way – imagine you’ve got some beautiful mushrooms sauteeing away in a pan and decide to deglaze with a beautiful ruby port wine. When you pop the cork, you might not smell much except if you put your nose close to the bottle. But as soon as the wine hits that hot pan, you will get a rich blast of winey goodness in the kitchen as the alcohol suddenly, and violently, evaporates. 

Alcohol is a vehicle for scent, and most perfumes are alcohol based. Spray a perfume on the outside of your elbow and you probably won’t get many whiffs of it. But spray a perfume on a pulse point and its evaporation will be accelerated. 

Just like the smell of the deglazing wine filled your apartment when you splashed it in the hot pan, the smell of the perfume on your skin will diffuse in the air as the alcohol in the mixture evaporates. 

So when you go to apply your fragrance, spray a few times on your pulse points – the wrists, the neck, the throat, the inner elbows, and behind the ears specifically. This will make it easier for you, and for others, to pick up on your scent. 

I spray once on each wrist, and once on the side or the back of my neck. That’s more than sufficient enough for me to get whiffs of my perfume for most of the day.

Clothes

Spraying perfume on clothes is another bone of contention. Some people say that you shouldn’t, while some people argue that you should only spray perfume on your clothes and never on skin. 

I’m somewhere in the middle. 

There are some perfumes you definitely shouldn’t spray on fabric. High quality perfumes loaded with natural oils can be wonderful, but tend to leave stains on light colored clothes. If the color of the fragrance liquid is dark, you might want to skip spraying on your clothes. 

However, in most cases, spraying one or two times on clothes can be a great way to make your fragrance last longer. 

Fragrance lasts much longer on fabric than it does on skin. I can’t even count the number of times I’ve gone back to put on a shirt or a jacket I wore the week before and instantly pick up a wonderful aroma coming off of it. 

This can be both a blessing and a curse. Some perfumes are so strong that the smell won’t come out, even in the wash, and you might be smelling that perfume you hate on your jacket for years. 

But most perfumes are much lighter than that, so I say, as long as your fragrance isn’t monstrously strong (as some are) or too dark in color, spray away. In fact, it’s quite common in the Middle East for women to liberally perfume their abayas with both their fragrance and with burning bakhoor. 

So don’t be afraid of spraying fragrance on your shirt or scarf. I myself apply 1-2 sprays on my clothes, usually once on the outside and once under my shirt. 

Hair

If you’ve ever smelt the heavenly scent of somebody’s shampoo well into the day – or, on the flip side, somebody’s lack of shampoo – you should know that hair is quite effective at carrying smell. 

1-2 sprays of perfume in your hair can increase the longevity of your perfume quite a bit, especially if you have long hair. I’ve often smelt perfume in my hair 12 hours after application. 

However, do be aware that the alcohol in perfumes can dry out and cause damage to hair in the long term. For that reason, I recommend that if you do apply perfume in your hair, make sure that you only spray 1-2 times, away from the scalp, in order to minimize the damage. 

Many companies make hair mists – like Sol de Janeiro’s Brazilian Crush Cheirosa ‘40 Bom Dia – which can perfume your hair without drying out or irritating your scalp. In many instances, you can find a hair mist version of your favorite perfume. 

Apply fragrance in your hair at your own risk. 1-2 sprays of perfume will likely not do much long term damage, but be sure not to overdo it. If you have dry or damaged hair, or a particularly irritable scalp, you’d be better off spraying elsewhere or using a hair mist. 

Other Spray Points and Strategies

There are a few other areas where some recommend applying perfume: 

  • Try spraying behind your knees. This will increase the scent trail you leave behind, and will make those sitting down smell you as you pass. The scent will also gradually upwards throughout the day, giving you occasional whiffs. 
  • Applying perfume to an area of skin that’s not a pulse point might not make it easier for others to smell you, but can help fragrance last longer. You’ll get more of a personal scent experience this way. 
  • Try spraying on the stomach area, around the navel. The scent will travel upwards throughout the day. 
  • If a perfume is too strong, spraying under the shirt can help lessen the impact. 
  • You can also spray perfume into the air and walk into the scent cloud in order to distribute the smell around your body, rather than in a few concentrated points. 
  • The pectoral area – the breasts for the ladies, the man boobs for men – is a pulse point (right by your heart), and so spraying here will help your scent project. 
  • Finally, some recommend spraying your…ahem…dangly bits and undies. Do so at your own peril. 

Other Tips & Tricks

There are a few other critical points about applying fragrance that any real perfume lover needs to know. 

First off, do not rub your wrists together. Ever. This will only weaken a scent and rub off its volatile top notes. 

Instead, apply to the wrists, and stop. Let the fragrance aerate naturally. 

No rubbing is required. I have no idea why this ever became a thing but please, do yourself (and your perfume) a favor: don’t rub. Period. 

If a fragrance is too strong, try spraying it on 30 minutes to an hour before actually walking out the door. This will give the perfume some time to develop and evaporate, and the intensity of the scent will have decreased by the time you leave. 

Secondly, use moisturizer. This is HUGE and will go a long way towards increasing the longevity of your scent on your skin. 

After a shower, apply unscented moisturizer or lotion to the area of skin you’ll be applying fragrance to. Let the moisturizer dry, then spray your perfume on the moisturized area. 

The reason for doing this is because dry skin is the enemy of perfume. If your skin is too dry, perfume simply won’t last very long; it’ll have nothing to stick to. The alcohol in perfume already has drying properties, so the whole thing will just be kaput on dry skin. 

I myself have dry skin and was having difficulty getting perfume to last on me for a while. Once I started putting on moisturizer, though, I noticed a significant increase in longevity for all of my perfumes. 

So: DON’T rub your perfume after spraying, but DO rub moisturizer on your skin before spraying. 

Try it out next time you go to put on your perfume. Both of these tips will go a long way towards making your perfume longer-lasting. 

The Breakdown

So, to reiterate: 

Number of Sprays

  • Start small. 
    • 2-3 if you’re new to fragrances or not sure about the strength of your perfume. Then build from there. 
  • Keep the occasion and environment you’ll be walking into in mind before spraying.
    •  If you’re going to work, you might want to reign things in. If you’re just going out on errands or hanging out with the homies, you might have a little bit more freedom. 
  • Know your fragrance. 
    • Not all perfumes are made equal. Some are incredibly powerful, some are light and airy. Do a test run at home or in the store before you decide to douse yourself in your new perfume. 
  • Test, test, test.
    • The only person who will know what works for you is you. Try out different spraying regimens. If 2-3 sprays don’t work for you, try 4-5, or 5-6, or more, or just 1, even. But only you can know what you’re comfortable with. 

Where to Spray

  • Pulse points. 
    • Apply fragrance to your pulse points so that the smell will diffuse in the air. The wrists and the neck are the most common, but you can also apply perfume to your inner elbows, chest, behind the knees, and your navel, if you so choose.
  • Clothes
    • Spraying on clothes will increase a perfume’s longevity, sometimes significantly. Be aware, however, that some perfumes can stain light colored clothes, and if a perfume is super strong you might be smelling it for weeks, even after a wash. 
  • Hair
    • Spraying in your hair can make your perfume last longer, but it can also dry out and damage your hair if you overdo it. Keep it to 1-2 sprays if you do decide to apply perfume in your hair, but if you have dry or damaged hair, you might want to stick to a hair mist. 

Tips & Tricks

  • Don’t rub your wrists together after applying fragrance. 
    • This will just rub off the top notes of the perfume and make the smell less long-lasting. 
  • Apply an unscented lotion or moisturizer after showering to the area of skin you’ll be spraying your perfume. 
    • This will help it last longer. 

The Final Word 

The perfume world can be bewildering for newcomers. People tend to look for one definitive answer for how to apply perfumes, but the truth of the matter is that it’s entirely up to you. 

Some people take 10 sprays to be the minimum, while others will only put on half a spray. Some will apply perfume to their pulse points and their clothes, while others will spray their hair and underwear. 

There is no real right or wrong. Smell is totally subjective, and so there are as many methods and routines to spraying perfume as there are people with opinions. 

The moral of the story is: test, test, test. Explore, research, and find out what spraying routine works for you. 

To be sure, 4-5 sprays of an average strength perfume on your pulse points and clothes is a good benchmark. Spraying on your clothes and in your hair will increase the longevity of your perfume. Using unscented lotion and moisturizer will also give your perfume a boost. 

This routine is a good start, and I do recommend it for most people’s needs. But maybe you need something entirely different. 

That’s part of the beauty of perfume. Perfume is personal, an extension of yourself, the mood and vibe that you want to project out into the world. 

So spray away. Test, explore, and discover. Use this guide as a starting point, but remember: only you know what works for you.